Human-Information Interaction Research Lab
Information Technology for Sharing, Browsing, and Interacting with Data

Selected Past Research Projects

The selected projects below were completed. However, our lab is interested in exploring new ideas as continuation of them. If you are an interested Ph.D./Master's student in Computer Science or Information Science, please contact Dr. Xiao at lxiao 24 at uwo dot ca.
Information Behavior in Crowd Work (2011 - 2013)
Prior studies have shown that articulating and sharing rationales in traditional small group activities contribute to the maintenance of common ground, the members’ knowledge awareness and contribution awareness. We anticipate that the importance of articulating and sharing rationales will also be increasingly acknowledged in online crowdsourcing, because in such context large scale participation is expected with participants often not knowing each other and being flexible about their participation status (e.g., participants may join after the activity has started and leave before it completes) thus more grounding efforts/support are expected. To better understand the role of shared rationales in online crowdsourcing we conducted three experiments investigating whether and how rationale awareness affects the ideation crowdsourcing task and idea evaluation crowdsourcing task, based on the findings about the rationale awareness effects in small group idea generation activities. Our results suggest that one’s awareness of previous workers’ rationales in the current task can slightly improve the average quality of generated ideas in iterative approach. Also, one’s evaluation of an idea could be positively or negatively affected by the idea’s rationale depending on the quality of the rationales. The results also suggest that showing previous workers’ rationales in the ideation task may not be an effective approach for improving the best quality of generated ideas.
Analysis of Shared Rationales in Small Group Activities (2010 - 2012)
Various systems have been developed to elicit and share members’ rationales in virtual group activities. These studies have focused on facilitating group decision making and improving group performance through different techniques of capturing and representing rationales by the systems. System designers consider it a bad design choice to capture rationales manually because they believe that the process takes designers time and is tedious. Ironically, studies from learning sciences suggest that explicitly articulating one’s rationales is beneficial to the development of one’s cognitive skills and life-long learning skills. In response to this literature gap,  we have investigated the effects of articulating and sharing rationales in virtual group activities. These rationales were collected in the following context: the groups conducted a challenges assessment activities in virtual environments where they proposed 30+ challenges that distributed team may face and provided the rationales to justify their challenges; and then each member selected top and bottom three challenges from the proposed challenges and provided the rationales to justify their choices; and last the group made choices on the top and bottom three challenges and justified the group choices by providing the group rationales.
We first conducted a quantitative content analysis with the shared rationales from small group activities. Our findings suggest that not only the members benefit from documenting rationales themselves the group benefits from the practice as well. Sharing rationales within the group makes individual development of cognitive and reasoning skills more influential on the group development especially for the groups that are heterogeneous in terms of the members’ domain knowledge level. We then used Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST) in a qualitative content analysis. From our analysis, similar reasoning styles were found cross the groups, and the group context seemed to have affected the members’ strategies of using contextual and additional information to justify their ideas.

Awareness and Information Sharing Practices in Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) (2008 - 2010)

CSCL researchers have become increasingly interested in the role of knowledge awareness in the computer- mediated learning activities. Knowledge awareness refers to one’s awareness of other group learners’ domain knowledge. Knowledge awareness affects how one interacts with the others and the group’s knowledge building process. It is believed that knowledge awareness facilitates establishment of mutual belief and is critical for the success of collaboration. In this research program, we investigated design guidelines to support knowledge awareness in computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) activities. In particular, we have examined how a shared rationale space affected one’s knowledge awareness in virtual collaborative learning environment and the group's practices of articulating and sharing rationales in the environment. In the investigation, a rationale was defined as a learner’s reasoning behind his/her decision of the tasks in the learning activity. The findings show that one’s awareness of the other group learners’ rationales, namely, rationale awareness, enhances one’s knowledge awareness. The study suggests several design implications to support knowledge awareness, including sharing one’s contextual information that reveals one’s domain knowledge; highlighting the association between the knowledge awareness information and the learners who provided the information; and supporting utilization of knowledge awareness information at both individual and group level.
Our investigation of the learners’ practices of articulating and sharing rationales show that group members would brainstorm the ideas and generate rationales to justify the ideas before reading the others’ ideas and rationales; the members in general brainstormed all the ideas first and then elaborated the rationales to justify the ideas; and the members grouped the shared rationales according to their authors.